SYCAMORE – Sycamore farmer Ben Drake considered closing down his sweet corn fundraiser for the Feed'em Soup Community Project last weekend before business started to slowly pick up.
Drake has been selling ears of sweet corn for $3 a dozen from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at his Sycamore farm, 9525 N. Grove Road, since Aug. 1. Unlike last year, when Drake's family was able to raise $1,500 to benefit Feed'em Soup Community Project, 122 S. First St., DeKalb, the family only has raised about $700 so far this year.
They expect to sell the sweet corn through mid-September and are hoping to at least match the money they raised last year, Drake said. Drake even lowered his price from $4 to $3 a dozen in hopes of attracting customers. All proceeds go to the charity, which offers pay-what-you-can community meals for residents, regardless of their income or background.
"There's too many other farm stands, and a lot with sweet corn," Drake said, speculating why they are less busy this year. "The sweet corn was ready at the same time as other stands."
Drake began donating his sweet corn in 2012 with help from the DeKalb County Corn Growers Association. The association covers the cost of sweet corn seed for members who agree to grow it and sell the crop for a charity of their choice, Drake said.
In 2012, Drake raised $1,100 for the DeKalb County Community Gardens. Last year, he averaged 30 dozen purchases a day to benefit Feed'em Soup Community Project. This year, it has decreased to about 10 dozen purchases a day.
Drake received a 25-pound bag of Beck's Seed sweet corn seed earlier this year and began planting across three acres in April. His fiancée, Megan Carrier, and three young children, Zakk, Lucas and Michael, help plant the seeds and pick the corn when it is ready.
"We're trying to teach [our children] the concept of doing a good deed," Carrier said. "The first year, they didn't get it. Now, they get it. They complain a little bit, but it's a good learning experience."
A tent is set up on Drake's farm. Customers serve themselves by grabbing a bag of sweet corn and leaving a $3 donation in a money box. Signs directing motorists to Drake's farm sit at nearby intersections, including Annie Glidden and Old State roads, Old State and Church roads and Route 23 and North Grove Road.
In addition to selling sweet corn, Carrier is also selling vegetables she grew from a personal garden that won't benefit Feed'em Soup Community Project. The Drake family knows how to keep track of where the money goes by looking at how many bags of sweet corn are gone.
Excess corn that is not sold will feed Drake's cattle.
"A lot of people keep coming back every year," Drake said, "because they know it's going to a good cause."
If you go
What: Sweet corn fundraiser
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Where: Ben Drake's farm, 9525 N. Grove Road, Sycamore
Why: All proceeds benefit Feed'em Soup Community Project